Morning Rehash: Spurs Edge Themselves Closer to Extinction.

Manu carried the Spurs as far as he could. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Well, we're on the edge of the cliff now. Unless the Spurs pull together, or Manu ascends into yet another level of awesomeness, fans will be soon diving into the abyss of yet another playoff exit. Let's go, Emo Spurs fan - Time for some gloomy notes and quotes with the Morning Rehash.

If you haven't read MatthewTynan's recap of last night's game, you'd be better off doing that now before reading any further.

Welcome to the Opening Hash

I wrote this piece prior to last night's game. I'm interested to see how the events and results of Game 5 tie into it.

On Saturday, Edg5 wrote a solid piece on the effectiveness, or rather the ineffectiveness, of Matt Bonner's presence on the court during this series.

...no amount of spacing can make up for his playoff deficiencies if Bonner isn't shooting and hitting from 3. OKC is doing a fantastic job of closing out quickly before Bonner can let it fly, and that is forcing Bonner to put the ball on the floor, which rarely ends well.

Matt's sole purpose in life (yes, life), aside from being the flagship for all red haired-freckled fan-damnation, is to hit open 3PT shots, thus spacing the floor for the rest of the Spurs' offense. But when he can't do that, the offense shuts down and Bonner becomes about as pointless as a teammate to Kobe Bryant. Aside from doing a good job closing out on Bonner, the Thunder will also aggressively patrol the passing lanes - forcing Bonner to put the ball on the floor for his patented Quasimodo Drive and Ginger Hook. Or even worse, his usually poor kick outs to well-defended teammates.

Going into game one, I was almost certain that Coach Pop would learn more towards the forgotten Pitt Panther since Blair has historically performed well against the Thunder frontcourt. While still in the starting lineup, DeJuan has averaged the following stats over 10 career regular season games against Oklahoma City:

So why aren't we running DeJuan Blair more against the Thunder?

Furthermore, OKC usually goes small for long periods, and the Spurs should only have one big in the game during those times. Neither Bonner nor Blair should play in those situations, which means that replacing Blair for Bonner in the rotation would only affect a small portion of the game in which the Thunder are playing with two bigs and Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw are the better options.

Small ball - Oh, that dreadful basketball mistress has betrayed us once again. By running small, the Thunder are able to bypass the poor frontcourt matchup by taking away San Antonio's team element in the paint. In a 2-on-2, the Spurs setup and cohesiveness outplays the Thunder's athleticism and size but in the small ball 1-on-1 scenario, the Thunder bigs are able to utilize their unique talents. This also allows the Thunders' 4-man perimeter defense free reign in making the Spurs a team of individuals - basically taking away the Spurs deadly 5-men-as-1 motion attack.

However, in those moments of non-small ball, the Spurs need to get Blair out onto the floor. If spacing the floor with Bon-Bon in the traditional setup isn't working, why not change directions and put another effective roll-man, passer, and rebounder in the lineup? Unlike some of the other teams with a taller frontcourt, the OKC bigs don't seem to bother Blair. His stockiness allows him to bull out the leaner guys and his quickness and high IQ on the glass allows him to combat their length and athleticism. And while I have questioned in the past where his head is due to the playoff demotion, this could be Blair's time to show that he can make an impact.

Obviously the Spurs can't give DeJuan more than 15 minutes per remaining game but he does need something more than 0, 0, 10, and 10. And if you're already benching Bonner for pulling his usual playoff Red Phantom business, then it's time to roll out a different scheme. Get him into the game. Let him be physical and let him set the rebounding battle tone.

Post-game note: Good hustle but was on the court in some really lousy lineups. Blair only played 7 early minutes last night.

Shootaround Notes

  • Ibaka started his warmup with some dribbling drills and the proceeded to work outside-in on his shot. I don't remember him missing one...
  • Thunder must spend a ton of time studying plyometric drills
  • Diaw maybe gets about 3 inches off the ground on his jumpshot. Bonner is probably around 5 inches.
  • Jackson's shot was looking high and smooth.
  • Manu's was looking the complete opposite. Most of Ginobili's shots were flat and short.
  • Nick Collison's pregame warmup works in a ton of high pick and pop.
  • Speaking of Collison - Dude leaves the court absolutely drenched in sweat.
  • Fisher brings the ball so far back, it amazes me he doesn't get blocked more often.
  • Bonner doesn't do any contested shooting drills...

Standard Pop Pre-Game Interview Quote

I went to a very good Italian restaurant, and had duck confit. It was fantastic.

- Pop on what he ate the previous night. A re-breaking the ice question after the 1st wave failed miserably.

Preliminary Acts

Dinner: Enchilada chicken, rice, baracho beans, and a salad. I also sacrificed a live chicken for luck.

National Broadcast Note: A Charles Barkley pinata. Hubie Brown has put on some weight. Also, I noticed that no one goes out of their away to talk to Craig Sager. He seems like a nice enough guy though.

Crowd Gimmick: "Electrifying" white t-shirts. Absolutely horrendous. Why couldn't the Spurs/AT&T Center change the playoff theme to something else? Were only playing the "Thunder." Cripes...

In Attendance: Sean Elliott, Antonio McDyess

Show of Force: This was a pathetic crowd. Showed up late, stayed quiet throughout 46/48 minutes of the game.

National Anthem: Craig Grimes. A country singer who didn't win one of those reality shows that everyone seems to love so much.

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via cache.daylife.com

Shot of the AT&T Crowd during 3rd Quarter.

Game Hash

28 Oklahoma City points off of 21 Spurs turnovers.

I've been beating this dead horse since Game One and so has Coach Popovich. You just can't beat a team as talented as the Thunder when you give them an extra point-plus (1.33) on every screw up.

You also can't expect to win if the bench you rely so heavily on for the team offense can't step up. Outside of Stephen Jackson, who fought his heart out in the 4th quarter, the Spurs bench produced a paltry 9 points of 3-11 FG, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 4 turnovers in 37 minutes. Gary Neal (15 min) has been a no show for this series and Danny Green put his brain on cruise control after Game Two. And call me "pessimistic" if you wish but I severally doubt the capability of Gary Neal and Danny Green to right their minds before tipoff on Wednesday night.

I could spend an hour writing about how God-awful the officiating has been on both sides of the court but it would just take away from just how much worse the consistency of effort and mental toughness has been for San Antonio. Even in the 120 Game Two victory, the Spurs just haven't been able to sustain any type of success - especially in between the first two quarters.

Coach Popovich perfectly summarized this series and, prophetically, Game Five before it was even played.

We have sucked in the second quarter. I don't know what else to tell you.

In this series, the San Antonio Spurs have been outscored by 32 points in the second quarter: -7, +5, -15, -12, & -3. The only difference with last night is that the 2nd quarter "suck" got an early start half through the 1st quarter.

And then it just left a crack in both of those quarters. The whole third quarter you're fighting to get back in it. So we've looked at who is on the court, what we're doing offensively, and mostly we've lost our pace in the second quarter. Gotten to the half‑court game. With these guys, that's tough. They're quick. They're long. They're athletic. They are what they are; They're really tough. At half court, the big guys are shot blockers and they move also. We have to be there and you can't turn it over, because that just exacerbates the whole deal. If you're not scoring and you turn it over on top of it, then all of a sudden it's a 10,12 point game.

I'm with Pop. I just don't know what else to tell you.

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via cache.daylife.com

Pictured: Russel Westbrook. Not Pictured: A Spurs player somehow fouling Russell Westbrook.

This Thing was Over...

After Tim Duncan picked up 4th foul off a Durant tumble late in the 3rd quarter. Duncan was the only Spurs big making a difference on the court. As soon as he left the court, the Thunder obliterated both the Spurs momentum and three point lead with a 15-3 run.

My Game Boss

Harden

JAMES HARDEN

MIN

PTS

FGM-A

3PM-A

AST

REB

STL

TO

35

20

6-11

3-4

3

4

2

0

Durant had bigger numbers but Harden was making big plays that would either kill the Spurs rhythm or save the Thunder's hide.

My Game Runt

Neal

GARY NEAL

MIN

PTS

FGM-A

REB

AST

STL

PF

TO

15

2

0-6

1

0

0

1

1

He hasn't fallen so low on his performance, I'd prefer Patty Mills to take his minutes. Seriously. Neal waits too long to pass and each one of those is at a bad angle. He was lucky to only have 1 TO in last night's game.

If I Had to Make Up a Word/Phrase for this Game, it Would be...

Spur-ler-coaster. Up, down, up down. Good play, bad play, hot streak, cold streak, smart decisions, bad decisions, etc., etc. Let me off this **** thing.

Bird is the Word (Tweets of the Game)

@TortiousTroll: I blame the white out.

@dailythunder: It really has been a terribly officiated game. All the way around it, both ways. A shame, because this is a good one.

@blanchard48moh: Oh Tiago. How I missed you being relevant in a good way. Can we go back to that?

@yowhatupT: I liked Tony Parker better when he was good at basketball

@PeterBurnsRadio: I bet every time Kevin Durant plays defense on Tecmo Bowl, he selects the right play.


Odds, Ends, & Other Rubbish

  • Both of Tony Parker's legs (front and back) are bruised up.
  • Jimmy Goldstein looks like a marionette.
  • No sense of sportsmanship in Westbrook. Well after the 1st half buzzer had sounded and both teams were heading back into the locker room, Westbrook swatted the arms of Danny Green while Danny was taking a practice jumper.
  • What is a charge/block call in this series? Has anyone been able to figure that one out? Since when did the NBA start calling charges when the defender is a foot up in the air or almost in a 90 degree limbo pose?
  • Would also be nice to remind the officials of what goal tending is.
  • Spurs got hacked on quite a few no calls but you can't expect to get those calls when you're falling down at mid-court earlier in the game.
  • The Thunder were flopping too but with less frequency and it faster motion. Such as the untouched Westbrook vertical ball fling that drew a foul on Splitter.
  • There was 2nd quarter lineup with DeJuan Blair (6'7") at the 5 and Stephen Jackson (6'8") at the 4.
  • Kawhi Leonard has looked gun-shy for way too long.
  • If Game 6 is truly the end then the Spurs have two important decisions on some FA non-factors: Neal and Green.
  • It's time for Matt Bonner to move on.
  • It's also time for the Spurs to get serious about finding an athletic big man - hopefully the Spurs myriad of financial paths this offseason is the one most beneficial to the team.

Going into Game 6, the Spurs need to...

...have the veterans do everything perfectly. Outside of Kawhi Leonard, the young guns on this team have checked out. Tony (41) and Manu (38) played a bruising game. Oklahoma City has also proven they are now able to step up to challenges with the poise of a veteran team. Only a couple of Spurs players have been able to claim the same. The Thunder are going to want to close this out AND make a statement.

Go Spurs Go!

You can follow Aaron on Twitter: @DukeOfBexar

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